Is Your Password One Of These Phrases? Change It Now

Americans are so worried about being hacked that many of them claim they would give up sex if it meant securing their online accounts forever, a new study has found. So why do so many people still use predictable passwords?

Four in 10 Americans say they would sacrifice sex for one year in exchange for never having to worry about being hacked or having their identity stolen, the study from password manager Dashlane found. These numbers suggest an increasing awareness from consumers about the importance of online security, National Cyber Security Alliance executive director Michael Kaiser said. “It shows people are gaining more awareness of the harm or inconvenience and risk that come with some devices,” he said.

Despite the desire to secure accounts from hacking, many people aren’t doing enough to prevent it, using predictable passwords that leave them vulnerable to having their accounts breached and sharing passwords with others. For passwords, 31% of people surveyed had used a pet’s name, 23% have used number sequences, 22% a family member’s name and 21% a birth date. Women were more likely than men to use pet or family member names, while men were more likely to choose sports team names or the name of an account they are signing into like using “Facebook” as their password for Facebook or BOA for their Bank of America account (don’t do this at home).

In addition to creating easy-to-guess passwords, many consumers are sharing their passwords with one another, putting them at higher risk for security problems. Forty-five percent of Americans have shared passwords the survey showed. The most commonly shared passwords are for email at 23%, followed by streaming apps like Netflix at 21%. Surprisingly, the survey found married people were slightly less likely to share passwords with others.

Security experts suggest using long, random strings of words as passwords and never using the same password twice. The average user has more than 100 accounts, according to Dashlane, making it difficult to create and remember distinct passwords for each one. For this and other security reasons, experts suggest using password managers like LastPass, 1Password, KeePass, or Dashlane. Users who do this should be sure to keep their master password in a safe place and not forget it. Of course, password managers are not impervious to hacking either: LastPass reported it had been hacked in 2015. Super secure consumers can instead write passwords down on a physical piece of paper and keep it somewhere safe. Changing passwords often can also lower the risk of being hacked.

Many hacks take years to come to light, as the recently announced breach of information from YHOO, -0.17% showed. The account information for at least 500 million users was stolen in 2014 but the company did not admit the breach until 2016. Using secure password practices and two-step authentication like receiving a confirmation code by text or email to a separate device to verify your identity, available on most email services and some social media platforms, can help protect your information even in the event of a breach.

Kari Paul is a personal finance reporter for Market Watch based in New York. You can follow her at @kari_paul.